Imari Paris Jeffries: A big Father's Day gift: Paid time with family


SOMERVILLE, Ma. — As Father's Day approaches, it's important to reflect on the sometimes-overlooked contributions fathers and father figures make to their families - and to recognize how much more we could do as a society for these figures all-year-long, not just once a year. This Father's Day, I'm thinking about the role of fathers who serve in our armed forces.

When I graduated from high school, I was proud to join in the tradition of my father and other members of my extended family and enlist in the U.S. Army. My service brought me to Fort Devens and gave me the opportunity to attend UMass Boston, start a family in Massachusetts, and begin a nearly 20-year career fighting for equality for all families in Boston.

Today, I am honored to lead Parenting Journey, a national nonprofit based in Somerville, which supports families across Massachusetts and the country. As an advocate for families and children, I spend a lot of time bringing awareness to the engrained societal norms that perpetuate inequality, including poverty. And too often, service members and their families are left out of that discussion.

Growing up during my father's tour of duty, it was common for him to be deployed for extended periods. And often when he was in the country, we would spend valuable family time getting ready to transfer to the next base. When my oldest daughter was born 22 years ago, there wasn't any type of support available from the military to spend essential bonding time with my newborn.

These types of sacrifices have been shared by millions of service members and their families — and they take their toll. Massachusetts has a significant opportunity to make a difference in the lives of veterans, and all families, by passing the paid family and medical leave legislation proposed by Raise Up Massachusetts.

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The legislation currently being considered on Beacon Hill would create an insurance program for all Massachusetts workers to receive job-protected paid leave to recover from a serious illness or injury, to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or to care for a new child.

When this law passes, military spouses like my mom will be able to take up to 16 weeks of job-protected paid leave to meet family needs arising from their family member's active duty military service. This could range from caring for a child, making financial or legal arrangements, spending time with the military member during a rest and recuperation leave or following a return from deployment, or making arrangements following the death of the military member.

Additionally, all workers would receive 26 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for a current or former member of the military who was seriously injured or became ill in the line of duty.

This Father's Day, ask your legislators to pass Raise Up Massachusetts' bill to provide paid family and medical leave, and give a gift that will support our service members and allow all families to thrive.

Imari Paris Jeffries is the executive director of Parenting Journey, a national nonprofit based in Somerville, Ma., which is a member of the Raise Up Massachusetts grassroots coalition.


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